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Western European Embroidery 

in the Collection of 
the Cooper-Hewiit 

The Smithsonian 
Institution's National 
Museum of Design 

Man's Cap 

England, late 16th century 
Foundation: linen, plain 
weave. Split and back stitch 
using s/7/<. Couched metal- 
wrapped silk with silk of 
various colors used tor 
couching. Spangles 
attached. Some clouds and 
rainbows separately 
embroidered on linen and 

Bequest of Richard C. 
Greenleaf in memory of his 
mother, Adeline Emma 
Greenleaf. 1962-53-11 

... European 

%9. Embroidery 

in the Collection of 
the Cooper-Hewitt 
Museum ■ 

The Smithsonian 
Institution's National 
Museum of Design 

©1978 By the 
Smithsonian Institution 
All rights reserved. 
Library of Congress 
Catalog No. 78-62366 


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Title page from Vavassore, Giovanni, Esemplano di Lavore 1 530 


The collections that Eleanor and Sarah 
Hewitt amassed for the school started by 
their grandfather, Peter Cooper, have long 
been recognized in scholarly circles. In 
public eyes, however, they are regarded 
as "the best kept secret in New York." With 
the move of the collections from the Cooper 
Union to the Carnegie Mansion, they are 
available at last to wider audiences. Thus, 
each year, several collections that normally 
rest in study centers will be put on 
temporary display. To accompany these 
exhibitions, the Museum will publish small 
catalogues describing its holdings in the 
subject areas presented. 

Because of the current revival of interest in 
embroidery of all kinds, the first publication 
in this series is devoted to Western 
European Embroideries in the Cooper- 
Hewitt Museum. Although the catalogue 
includes only a sampling of the many 
hundreds of embroidered items in the 
collection, it provides a good introduction 
to the various techniques used in 
embroidery, and describes the historical 
development of embroidery in this part of 
the world. 

The formidable task of documenting the 
entire Cooper-Hewitt Collection will take 
many years. We are deeply grateful to the 
Embroidery Council of America for enabling 
us to launch the series by underwriting the 
printing of this first publication. 

Lisa Taylor 

Embroidery is the decorative attachment of 
needle-worl<ed stitches to a previously 
made foundation. It undoubtedly developed 
from utilitarian uses of stitches, such as the 
seaming together of edges of tv(/o fabrics or 
skins, the reinforcing of ravi^ edges of 
fabrics, or the repairing of holes and tears. 

Several notable features of embroidery help 
explain its popularity among widely 
differing groups of people. There is no 
limitation to pattern in embroidery such as 
there is to pattern produced by a loom. 
Embroidery stitches can be worked by one 
person for self-enjoyment or by a group of 
people for commercial gain. Stitches are 
easy to learn, the necessary equipment is 
technologically simple and quality depends 
more on the embroiderer's innate and 
acquired skills than on expensive materials. 
The word embroidery connotes spare time, 
social position and relative wealth. Through 
the ownership and display of embroidery, 
monarchs, artisans and farmers have 
expressed pride and position within a social 

A fundamental understanding of the kinds 
of stitches employed in embroidery 
enhances enjoyment of the work beyond 
the first simply visual reaction. The 
formation of stitches requires specific 
movements of hand and needle: the circular 
movement of "overcasting" to bind edges; 
the continuously forward movement of 
"running" stitch to seam; or the back and 
forth movement of "running" stitch to darn. 
These stitches are decorative as well as 
functional. A stitch can be identified by the 
relationship of portions of the element or 
yarn to each other and to the foundation 
into which it is worked. Although the 
stitches are endlessly variable, their specific 
movements can be described and the 
various parts of composite stitches can be 

Simple stitches can be classified as 
belonging to one of three groups: flat, 
looped or knotted. Flat stitches are those in 
which the thread is carried straight from 
one point to another, in and out of the 
foundation. The location of these points can 
be changed so the stitches may or may not 
be parallel to each other. Stitches may 
overlap or cross. If, in the sequence of a 
yarn entering and exiting the foundation 
fabric the yarn is forced out of its straight 
passage, the stitch can be described as 
looped. The basic form of looping is 
commonly known as "buttonhole" stitch. 
Knotted stitches appear as a protruberance 

Figure 1 


2. Part of an Altar Cloth 

Lower Saxony. Germany, 
14th century 
Foundation: linen, plain 
weave. Stitches using linen 
and silk: stem, satin, 
surlace satin and couching. 
Height: W.h inches. Width: 
12'/2 inches. 

Purchase in memory ol 
Elizabeth Haynes. 1949-7-1 

f a- M i iw iii Wi ii r* ^S?^if »inm i m0r . 

on the surface of the foundation fabric, 
often as a knot in the looped stitch. They 
are l<nown by such names as "French," 
"Peking" or "bullion" knots. 

The movements of hand and needle while 
forming flat and looped stitches, and the 
relationships of various parts of the yarn, 
are variable and fascinating to observe. For 
example, compare the straight forward 
motion of "running" stitch (Figure 1,a) with 
the simple change in the angle of the stitch 
to produce "half cross" (Figure 1,b) and 
with the close alignment of the stitches to 
produce "surface satin" (Figure 1,c). 
Compare the in-and-out circular motion of 
"overcasting" and "satin" (Figure 1,d) with 
the offset alignment of "stem", "split" 
and "back" stitches (Figure 1,e). The cir- 
cling back movement is combined with a cros- 
sing of the yarn in both "herringbone" (Fig- 
ure 1,f) and "long-armed cross" (Figure 1,g). 

The hand/needle motion required for 
looped stitches is circular but when the 
needle comes out of the foundation fabric it 
must come up and over the yarn to make a 
loop before it exits into the foundation. 
Buttonhole looping (Figure 1,h) can be 
worked in single rows or on the vertical 
with a left/right alternation as in "feather" 
stitch. It can also be worked back into 
previous rows to fill a shape (Figure 1,i). 
Chain (Figure 1,j) is a looped stitch in 
which the yarn's exit and entry are at or 
near the same point. There are numerous 
variations based on the spacing of exit and 
entry points such as "ladder chain" 
(Figure 1,k). 

It should be understood that simple stitches 
can be combined, interworking with or on 
top of each other. Stitches can also be 
interworked to form structures that are 
detached from the foundation. For example, 
running stitch worked over and under a set 
of previously laid flat stitches can produce 
plain weave or twill in detached interlacing. 
Buttonhole looping worked back into loops 
of a previous row produces a distinctive 
looped structure. Detached stitches can be 
padded or stuffed to stand out in relief. 

The relationship of a stitch to a foundation 
fabric can be described as counted or 
uncounted. Counted stitches interwork with 
the grid-like character of the foundation. 
The foundation can be a fine to coarse 
plain weave, plain weave with spaced 
groups of warps and wefts or any other 
specially made mesh-like structure such as 
gauze weave, knotting, crochet or knitting. 

3. Baptism of St. Martin 

Franco-Flemish, 1425-35 
Foundation: two layers ol 
linen plain weave. Split and 
stem stitches using silk. 
Couched metal-wrapped 
silk. Couching silk changes 
color and produces 
patterns and textures. 
Diameter 7 inches 
Gift ol Irwin Untermyer, 


Counted embroideries generally are 
geometric in appearance. Uncounted 
stitches freely form the shapes and 
contours of the pattern without relating to 
the structure of the foundation. Counted 
and uncounted stitches can be used on the 
same fabric. Several stitches, such as cross, 
stem and herringbone, are particularly well 
suited to counting although practically all 
stitches can be worked counted or 

Several openwork techniques use counted 
stitches in special ways. In "deflected 
element work" for example, the warps and 
wefts of a woven foundation are forced out 
of alignment by a tightly pulled stitch. 
Overcasting, cross and herringbone stitches 
are commonly used. In "withdrawn element 
work" selected warps and/or wefts of a 
woven foundation are removed and the 
remaining elements form the foundation for 
stitches. The grid of remaining elements 
can be overcast or secured by buttonhole 
stitch and in turn form a foundation for 
cross stitch or for interlacing or looping. In 
its most extreme form, large groups of 
elements are removed leaving a sparse grid 
of foundation elements: the open space is 
then filled with needle lace. This technique, 
known as reticella, is marginally related to 

Functional stitching is as old as man but no 
one knows exactly when man began to 
embellish surfaces with embroidery. All the 
techniques of embroidery have a long 
history, although at times certain 
techniques and stitches were more favored 
than others. The skill of the embroiderer 
has also fluctuated throughout the ages. 
Such changes can be documented in the 
collection of the Cooper-Hewitt (Vluseum 
which has been acquiring embroidery since 
its opening as The Cooper Union tvluseum 
in 1897. 

Through the generosity of a number of 
collectors and by judicious purchases, 
Cooper-Hewitt has assembled a wide range 
of small-scale embroideries, primarily from 
Western Europe. The collection also 
includes embroideries from the Near East, 
India, Central Asia, Indonesia and the Far 
East, all of which expand the range of 
techniques and styles and provide 
comparisons with those from Europe. The 
most important are those from 
Mediterranean and Near Eastern Islamic 
countries, from the fifteenth century and 
earlier, in which techniques and patterns 
that influenced Europe can be found. The 

4. Picture or Book Cover 

France or Germany, 16!h 

Foundation: silk, plain 
weave in central medallion 
and 5-harness satin in 
borders. Satin stitch and 
couching using silk. 
Couched metal-wrapped 
silks sometimes padded or 
fully 3-dimensional. Coils ol 
wire, coils ol flat metal strips 
and coral beads attached. 
Height; 13'h inches. Width: 
1 1 'h inches. 
Gilt of Marian Hague, 

majority of items in the collection are those 
which were kept in churches, monasteries, 
royal palaces and households of 
landowners and tradesmen. 

Because of the special way the church used 
and treasured embroideries, a remarkable 
number of early ecclesiastical pieces have 
survived and are preserved in European and 
American collections. The earliest 
ecclesiastical work in the Cooper-Hewitt 
dates from the fourteenth century. One, a 
small fragment of an orphrey showing Mary 
and Christ, embroidered with silk and 
metallic (1963-70-3), is closely related in 
style and technique to embroideries from 
the commercial studio of Geri Lapi in 
Florence. His composition and drawing is in 
the high style of fourteenth century Italy. 
The other fourteenth century piece, a 
twelve-inch linen square, embroidered with 
linen and silk showing the Crucifixion is from 
Lower Saxony, Germany (Figure 2). The 
strong drawing, stark composition and bold 
decoration of the stitched patterns identify 
this as the work of a confined order of nuns 
working in a convent set apart from the 
main stream of late Gothic Art. 

So great was the mastery of technique 
achieved by professionals in Gothic and 
early Renaissance workshops of Northern 
Europe that their embroideries were called 
"needlepainting." The style is represented in 
the collection by five Franco-Flemish 
roundels, each seven inches in diameter. 
Two of the roundels, produced between 
1425 and 1435, illustrate events in the life of 
St. Martin (Figure 3); the other three 
roundels, produced between 1432 and 1450, 
show events in the life of St. Catherine 
(1962-8-1 c,d,e). The minute faces, 
embroidered with silk in split stitch, convey 
deep emotion and power. Of particular 
interest is the use of couched metal- 
wrapped silk yarns. Couching is a 
technique in which a thread is laid across 
the surface of a fabric and is secured by 
tiny stitches of a second thread. The silk 
couching thread in these roundels is spaced 
to suggest woven or mosaic patterns and a 
variety of other textures and materials. It 
also changes color to suggest depth. 

A tour-de-force in naturalism and three- 
dimensional form is represented by a 
picture with a tree in full foliage dominating 
the landscape (Figure 4). It may have been 
embroidered as a special commission for a 
royal patron in France or Germany in the 
sixteenth century. The branches of the tree 
are a fully rounded and stuffed variation of 

5. Border for a 
Table Cover 

Italy, early 1 7th century 
Foundation: linen, plain 
weave. Counted back and 
stem stitches using silk. 
Trimmed with silk bobbin 
lace. Repeat width: 
13'/2 inches. Height: 
8 inches 

Greenleat in memory of his 
mother, Adeline Emma 
Greenleal, 1962-52-3 

6. Border for a 
Table Cover 

Italy, early 17th century 
Foundation: linen, plain 
weave. Back and long- 
armed cross stitches using 
silk. Linen bobbin lace 
attached. Height: 6'/? 
inches. Width: 29'h inches 
Bequest ol Richard C. 
Greenleat in memory ol his 
mother, Adeline Emma 
Greenleat 1962-52-2 


7. Band 

Italy, late 16th or early 17th 


Foundation: linen, plain 

weave. Back and running 

stitches using silk. Repeat 

width: 4'/j inches Height: 

2'/j inches 

Purchase, Anonymous 

Funds, 1949-64-8 

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couched metallic yarns. The leaves are bent 
shapes of metal-wrapped silk and stand out 
in mid-air. The salamander at the base of 
the tree and the crutches and leg-like 
ornaments hanging from the tree seem to 
suggest rejuvenation. 

A significant factor in the cultural 
development in sixteenth century Western 
Europe w/as the rise of the non- and semi- 
professional needlevi/orker. Their emer- 
gence was the result of a combination of 
forces, including the printing and 
distribution of books, the Reformation in 
Germany and in England, the rise in 
economic power of European nations, and 
the increased availability of luxury goods — 
among them silk and metallic yarns for 

The first known pattern book was printed in 
Augsburg, Germany in about 1523. By 1590 
books of the same type also appeared in 
Italy, France and England. The books are 
summaries of popular ornament rather than 
the designs of an individual artist. The 
designs are drawn from Greek and Roman 
antiquity, Gothic ornament, arabesques and 
natural motifs from Islamic cultures around 
the Mediterranean and patterns copied from 
other books and prints. The books, which 
provide no directions for stitches, are in 
black and white with occasional 
suggestions of tone. Some patterns suggest 
counted work while others are clearly for 
free-form embroidery. The patterns were 
used by weavers and lace makers as well as 

The majority of patterns were intended for 
borders of table covers, towels and 
clothing. The most popular border was a 
floral vine. In the 1520's and 1530's strong 
Islamic influences appeared in the pattern 
books. In the early seventeenth century, 
elaborate curving vines ended in dragon 
heads and human busts and twisting 
branches provided shelter for insects and 
birds (Figure 5) Other subjects which 
appeared in pattern books include human 
figures, animals, birds, processions, the 
alphabet and geometric patterns. 

Embroideries from Italy, Spain, Portugal 
and England, in styles found in pattern 
books, form an extensive and important part 
of the Cooper-Hewitt collection. The 
majority are from the gifts and bequests of 
Richard C. Greenleaf and Marian Hague, 
long-time friends of the museum. Of 
particular interest are the bands from the 
Greenleaf collection that illustrate episodes 
from the Old Testament (Figure 6). 

8. Ecclesiastical 
Cover with symbols 
of the passion 

Italy, late 16th or early 

1 7th century 

Foundation: linen, plain 

weave. Withdrawn element 

work with overcasting. 

Cross stitch using silk. 

Patch of knotted net with 

pattern darning. Height: 

32'h inches. Width: 30'k 


Bequest of Marian Hague, 


Simitar to a pattern in de 

Sera, Dominique— Le livre 

de lingerie (Paris, 1584) 

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A number of bands from Italy, Spain and 
Portugal have a wide variety of stitches 
using silk and metal-w/rapped silk yarns. By 
the late sixteenth and early seventeenth 
centuries metallic yarns w/ere widely used, 
as can be documented in portrait painting 
as well as by a close study of the 
embroideries themselves. Satin stitch, 
increasingly favored in this period, left a 
great deal of expensive yarn unseen on the 
reverse side and an effort was made to 
build shapes in relief using metallic yarns. A 
cupid in a chariot drawn by a unicorn 
(1962-120-5) and fantastic dragons (1949- 
64-16) illustrates this type. 

Although it is unusual to match an 
embroidery with a published pattern, 
several such comparisons can be made in 
the Cooper-Hewitt collection thanks to the 
efforts of Marian Hague. For example, a 
band with the slogan "Liberta" (1971-50-92) 
relates to a pattern published by Giovanni 
Vavasore in Italy in 1530; a towel 
embroidered at both ends with Cupid 
pointing a spear at a reclining nude woman 
(1971-50-563) was based on a plate from 
the book published by Mathio Pagano in 
Venice in 1558; and a towel end with a floral 
band (1942-7-16) relates to an illustration in 
Domenico da Sera's book published in Paris 
in 1584. 

Ecclesiastical embroidery in England, where 
top quality church furnishings were 
produced for an international market in the 
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, came to 
a sudden and violent end in the sixteenth 
century. Under the reign of Henry Vlll 
monasteries and churches were looted and 
the clergy murdered. Those vestments and 
church furnishings which were not 
wantonly destroyed or burnt to reclaim their 
gold content, found their way into royal and 
private collections where they were often 
re-used. These splendid fabrics, lavishly 
embellished with silks and metallics once 
reserved for the church fathers, suddenly 
had a wider audience— one which 
appreciated their quality and quickly 
grasped the concept of pride in ownership 
and display. English portraits from the 
period of Henry Vlll and particularly from 
the reign of Elizabeth I illustrate an 
extravagance of silk, metallics, spangles, 
beads and precious stones combined with 
brightly colored brocades, rich velvets and 
intricate laces. Homes which demanded the 
comfort provided by bed curtains, wall 
hangings, pillows and table covers were 
made more inviting by embroidery. English 
domestic needlework is represented in the 

9. Woman's Cap 

England, about 1600 
Foundation: linen, plain 
weave. Chain and satin 
stitches using linen. 
Detached looping using 
metal-wrapped silk. 
Withdrawn element work 
with overcasting and 
looping. Cut work with 
needle lace fillings. 
Spangles secured by a loop 
of linen threaded through a 
coil of a flat strip of metal. 
Height: 9% inches. Width: 
18'h inches 
Bequest of Richard C. 
Greenleaf in memory of his 
mother Adeline Emma 
Greenleaf. 1962-53-1 

collection by a man's late sixteentti century 
dome-shaped cap (cover illustration) and by 
six women's caps (1962-53-1 through 6). 
The man's cap is patterned with brightly 
colored rainbows and with clouds hovering 
over gold snails and caterpillars. The 
woman's caps (Figure 9) are veritable 
gardens with curving vines enclosing 
flowers, fruit, birds and insects. The number 
of stitches and the care with which they 
were worked attest to the passion for 
embroidery in England during this period. 
Motifs often echoed the popular patterns of 
expensive and highly prized drawloom 
woven fabrics. 

Pictures were embroidered for home 
decoration (Figure 10). The Bible was a 
frequent source for subjects, as in the 
unfinished picture "Rebecca at the Well" 
(1962-50-10) after an engraving by Gerard 
de Jode published in Antwerp in 1585. 
Among the most admired English pictures 
of the seventeenth century are those in 
which brightly colored flowers and human 
figures stand out in relief. Images were built 
up by looping, raised above the foundation 
fabric, and some motifs were stuffed with 
yarn or fiber. 

Anxious to record patterns for future 
reference, a needleworker of the sixteenth 
century embroidered notes or sample 
patterns on a square of linen. These 
"samplers" were consulted when projects 
were planned and they were avidly 
collected and passed from one generation 
to another. Samplers reveal the taste of a 
specific time as well as the technical skill of 
the embroiderer. The nucleus of the 
Museum's sampler collection was put 
together by Eva Johnson Coe. All European 
styles are included, as well as samplers 
from those countries influenced by Europe, 
such as Mexico (Figure 11), Morocco and 
the United States. 

The earliest European sampler in the 
collection was embroidered in Spain in the 
sixteenth century. It is a very good example 
of sampler making, for it consists of 
snatches of twenty-five different patterns in 
at least nine stitches. 

The shape of a sampler often has much to 
say about its date and country of origin. 
English samplers of the seventeenth century 
were usually long and narrow; measuring as 
little as six inches in width and as much as 
three feet in length. There are several 
seventeenth century English samplers in the 
collection. Some are the type known as 
"spot" samplers with isolated flowers and 

10. Jeptha's Daughter 

England, 1 7th century. 
Foundation: linen, plain 
weave. Counted stitches 
using silk: stem, cross, 
padded satin and tightly 
pulled rococo to deflect 
foundation elements. 
Couched silk, silk-wrapped 
silk, silk-wrapped wire and 
loops of silk-wrapped silk. 
Height: 1 6 inches Width: 
20'/? inches 
Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 

repeating patterns embroidered in a large 
variety of stitches using silk and metallic 
yarns. English samplers of this period were 
frequently embroidered entirely in white, 
with bands of reticella, an influence of 
Italian embroidery. 

Spanish samplers of the late seventeenth 
and early eighteenth centuries were large 
squares, up to three feet, which could be 
viewed from each of the four sides. The 
samplers were often signed with the names 
of both the pupil and the teacher. German 
samplers of the same period were made in 
both rectangular and square shapes. 

As pattern books became available, the 
sampler was no longer needed to record a 
variety of patterns. Thus its function 
changed to become a means of perfecting 
embroidery skills. Literary references 
indicate that in the seventeenth century 
samplers were made by children in schools. 
A repertoire of motifs, such as flowering 
plants, confronted birds, pyramid-shaped 
trees, Adam and Eve and angels, developed 
(Figure 12). 

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, 
the variety of stitches used on samplers 
decreased. Counted cross stitch was the 
most frequently used, so much so that it 
became associated with the entire genre 
and was called the sampler stitch. The 
specialty sampler, such as the pattern- 
darning sampler, the marking sampler, and 
the hollie point sampler (a needle lace 
technique) appeared during this period. 

The museum has several pattern darning 
samplers embroidered in the Netherlands in 
the eighteenth century. Their function was 
to train the embroiderer to darn well 
enough to mend household linens in 
various weaves as well as to mend knitting. 
The sampler was made by filling in a hole 
cut in the foundation fabric with stitches 
that re-create or simulate various woven 
structures. The German marking sampler of 
the nineteenth century grew out of a similar 
household tradition of training the 
embroiderer to personalize and identify the 
household linens. 

American samplers developed from forms 
and traditions that already existed in 
Europe. New England samplers are similar 
to English and Scottish styles while 
Pennsylvania samplers tend to derive from 
German traditions. Many American 
samplers were made in schools where a 
teacher created the design which her pupils 
embroidered. Thus several samplers. 

-" -■- •yj^ '■' 

11. Sampler 

Mexico, late 18lh or early 
19th century 
Foundation: linen, plain 
weave. Counted stitches 
using silk: long-armed 
cross, back, satin and 
double running. Withdrawn 
element work with 
overcasting combined with 
a long floating stitch (aztec 
stitch) using silk 
Height: 14'h inches. 
Width: 35 inches 
Bequest of Mrs. Henry E. 
Coe. 1941-69-122 

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12. Sampler 

Jean Porter 

England. May 14, 1709- 
Aprite. 1710 
Foundation: linen, plain 
weave. Counted stitches 
using silk long-armed 
cross, herringbone and 
double running. Free-form 
slitches using silk 
detached looping (man's 
pants), buttonhole 
(woman's caps and collars) 
and couching (outline of 
man's body). 

Height: 18'h inches. Width: 
9 inches 

Bequest of Mrs. I~lenry E 
Coe, 1941-69-63 

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identical except for the embroiderer's 
names, are preserved in different collections. 

Crewel wool, worked on linen and cotton, 
was one of the most popular materials for 
embroidery in England, France and the 
United States in the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries. The wool yarn was 
made from a specially selected long fiber, 
carefully combed, tightly spun and plied so 
it would slip easily through the foundation 
fabric. Because only long and glossy wool 
fibers were selected, the colors are brilliant 
even today. England excelled in the 
production of crewel wool. The most 
intimate pieces of crewel in the collection 
are the eighteenth century French men's 
caps (1944-1-1) and (1952-47-3) and the 
eighteenth century American woman's 
petticoat border (Figure 13). The few large 
hangings in the Museum's collection are 
very worn and faded due to hard use and 
exposure to light but the patterns of vines 
with exotic flowers and leaves are typically 
vital and full of movement (Figure 14). 

In the second half of the seventeenth 
century and throughout the eighteenth 
century, colorful, brightly dyed and 
embroidered cottons from India and painted 
and embroidered silks from China were 
available for hangings, bed covers and 
apparel. In spite of the number of exotic 
foreign fabrics in Europe, for several 
decades embroidery retained its hold on 
quality of design and technique. The color, 
scale and design of silk-embroidered 
cottons and linens, particularly in England, 
are closely related to the imports from India. 

Foreign trade continued to make available a 
great range of fabrics in addition to those 
printed or woven in Europe. Since fabric 
patterns, particularly for dresses, changed 
yearly, interest in market developments 
preoccupied many more people than 
before. Non-professional embroidery be- 
came increasingly less fashionable. Those 
with money preferred purchasing com- 
mercially produced embroideries to doing 
their own needlework at home. 

The work of professional embroiderers in 
the eighteenth century is represented by a 
variety of fabrics used by women. A white- 
on-white fan leaf (1962-50-318) and a pair 
of lappets or head ornaments (1962-50-56) 
embroidered in Denmark or Germany, 
represent efforts of lace needle workers to 
compete with a growing passion for 
gossamer bobbin lace in the 1720's and 
1730's. Such very pesonal small-scale 
pieces are startingly fine and combine 

13. Petticoat Border 

United States. 18th century 
Foundation: linen, plain 
weave. Stitches using 
crewel wool: stem, 
speckling, roumanian. knot, 
chain, surface satin and 
buttonhole. Height: Th 

Purchase: Funds provided 
by Mrs. Montgomery Hare, 
Mrs. Alastair B. Martin and 
Au Panier Fleuri Fund, 


14. Hanging 

England, late 1 7th century 
Foundation: linen warp and 
cotton welt. 1/2 twill 
Stitches using crewel wool: 
satin, surface satin, stem, 
detached chain, knots, 
running, cross and 
couching Height: 90 
inches. Width: 35 inches 
Gift ol Elizabeth B. Willis, 

embroidery with deflected element work to 
create a wide range of sheer to opaque areas. 

A length of cream silk embroidered with a 
repeat of landscapes dominated by large 
flowering plants (Figure 15) is in the same 
style as brocaded silks of the 1730's. The 
length clearly demonstrates its relationship 
to silk patterns. However, the motifs number 
more than could be included in a woven 
repeat of a similar scale. 

The largest group of eighteenth century 
professional embroideries in the Museum 
are articles for men. the majority from the 
Greenleaf collection. There are eight coats, 
three suits, eighty-five waistcoats and sixty- 
five merchants' samples for coats and 
waistcoats. There are also more than two 
hundred gouache designs on paper. Each 
pattern has an individual character although 
many are confined to a specific format and 
style of repeating natural and fantastic 
flowers. One becomes curious about the 
personality and taste of the man who 
ordered a waistcoat with a lower border of 
turkeys, cows or roosters (1962-54-30), 
monkeys drinking and singing (Figure 16), 
silver ships (1962-54-29), a man wearing a 
Chinese style hat in a boat with ostrich 
feathers (1962-54-56) or scenes from the 
1785 opera Dido and Aeneas by Piccini 
and Marmontel (1962-54-47). 

Perhaps the first pattern book to include 
color notes with motifs and indications of 
how forms could be rendered three- 
dimensionally was published by Johann 
Friedrich Netto in Leipzig in 1795. The first 
engraved page of motifs is accompanied by 
a silk fabric, embroidered in colored silks, 
following the outline of the printed sheet. 
After the introductory text, each pattern 
page is included twice, the first hand 
colored and the second uncolored. 
Diagrams of stitches did not appear in 
published pattern books in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries but a few are 
shown in the eighteenth century, as in the 
Diderot Encyclopedie, completed in 1765. 

The basic element of embroidery— the 
stitch, knowledge of which was taken for 
granted in previous centuries— had to be re- 
taught on an elementary level by the end of 
the eighteenth century. In the early 
nineteenth century, young women used 
surprisingly few stitches, mainly satin and 
stem, in their embroidered exercises of 
pastoral scenes, maps and mourning 
pictures. Large areas of the foundation 
fabric were not embroidered but were 
painted for sky, grass and human features. 

15. Dress Fabric 

France, 1 730's 
Foundation: silk, plain 
weave patterned witti lloals 
of a supplementary warp 
Satin and stem stitches 
using silk l-leighl: 40 
inches. Width, selvedge to 
selvedge: 22 inches 
Purchase in memory of 
Mary Hearn Greims. 










'■ J^ 

¥ s. .1;. 


"Fame Adorning Shakespeare's Tomb," 
after a painting by Angelica Kauffman 
(1974-100-12), was a favorite in English 
schools and had its counterpart in the 
United States In "Fame Adorning the Tomb 
of Washington" (1974-100-15). 

Early in the nineteenth century when the 
clean lines of the classical style were in 
vogue for dresses and furnishings, 
decoration was limited to borders and 
trimmings. These were woven and printed 
as well as embroidered. White muslin 
dresses and curtains were particularly 
suited to embroidery with small-scale all- 
over patterns and borders, usually in white. 
The hook for chain stitch, illustrated in the 
Diderot Encyclopedie, made work much 
faster and was increasingly used. In the first 
fifteen years of the century a sense of 
integrity in design and workmanship was 
carried over from the eighteenth century. 
However, the tremendous economic, social 
and political changes which took place 
between 1776 and 1815 had their effect on 
embroidery. The large-scale machine 
production of white cotton fabric and yarn 
contributed to the popularity of white work. 
The growing market for white-on-white 
embroideries was supplied by a network of 
cottage industries, particularly in England 
and Scotland. Patterns were handed out to 
women, who were paid to embroider them. 
Embroidery machines began to reach their 
full potential in mid-century. The dictates of 
fashion caused frequent shifts in the 
emphasizing effect of embroidery from skirt 
to collar to parasol. The fast and extreme 
changes in fashion often demanded new 
applications of materials such as fabrics, 
lace, beads, ribbons and feathers. In 
contrast to the eighteenth century when 
styles evolved gracefully and professional 
designers were able to create personalized 
patterns for individual customers, the 
nineteenth century was a jumble of fast- 
moving commercial forces in which the 
individual had only a small voice. 

The final blow to creative domestic 
embroidery was the introduction of printed 
patterns on squared paper in Berlin in 1804. 
Women took quickly to this commercial 
venture covering practically everything with 
"Berlin wool-work," from suspenders, 
slippers, chair seats and backs, to fire 
screens and valances. Between 1810 and 
1840, 14,000 patterns were published. The 
enormous number of patterns gave an 
illusion of creativity. Fabrics with mesh in 
different degrees of openness were 
specially woven to facilitate a simple 

16. Untailored 
Man's Waistcoat 

France, 1 790's 
Foundation: silk, 8-harness 
satin. Satin, stem and knot 
slltcl^es using silk. The 
sheet music is painted. 
Height: 25 '/: inches. Width, 
selvedge to selvedge: 22 

Bequest of Richard C. 
Greenleaf in memory of his 
mother, Adeline Emma 
Greenleaf, 1962-54-31 














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transfer of pattern from color squares on 
paper to the open mesh of the fabric. A fire 
screen with a parrot and flowers in cross 
and pile stitch, using the bright but 
nonlustrous "Berlin" wools (Figure 17) 
represents the fully three-dimensional 
effects achieved. In an effort to keep 
abreast of new designs the wool-work 
sampler, embroidered by an adult, was 
restored to its sixteenth century function of 
a record of colorful patterns for easy 
reference (1942-45-2). 

With a new leisure class anxious to express 
itself, a wide range of handwork was 
illustrated and described in books and 
periodicals late in the nineteenth century. 
There were specific directions for knitting, 
crochet, tufting, applique, bead work, 
ribbon embroidery, and many other 
techniques using a variety of materials such 
as wax, paper, paints and shells. Patterns 
appeared that were suitable for the series of 
period-style revivals— Gothic, Baroque and 
Renaissance. Due to this interest many of 
the German and Italian sixteenth and 
seventeenth century pattern books were 
reprinted between 1875 and 1910. No doubt 
the most bizarre revival of Renaissance 
Italian embroidery, lace techniques and 
patterns was achieved by Sybil Carter, an 
Episcopalian deaconess from Maine. In the 
1890's, she organized a home industry 
among various North American Indian 
tribes with a sales shop in New York City 
(1943-44-1 through 16). 

The loss of vital craft traditions and the 
deterioration of design as a result of mass 
production and acceptance of period 
revivals became the primary concern of a 
group of men in England in the 1850's. One 
of the leaders of the Arts and Crafts 
Movement, as it became known, was 
William Morris (1834-1896) who designed 
embroideries in the style of the pre- 
Raphaelites for his home "Red House" 
outside London. His designs were 
embroidered by his family and friends. The 
design and sale of embroidery patterns as 
well as completed pieces became an 
important activity of the company he 
founded in 1861. The three pillows in the 
collection were probably designed by or 
under the direction of Morris's daughter, 
May. One may have been embroidered by 
May Morris herself (1975-19-1); the second 
was purchased from Morris & Co. as a fully 
made-up pillow (Figure 18); the third was 
purchased as a kit complete with patterned 
fabric and yarn and was embroidered in 
New York (1936-5-3). 

17. Fire Screen 

United States, 1830-50 
Foundation: silk-wrapped 
cotton, plain weave (Berlin 
canvas). Counted cross 
stitch and pile loops using 
wool Height: 28^u inches. 
Width 21 ^i inches 
Gift of Mrs. Edgar 
Auchincloss, 1947-34-1 

The continental art style, "Art Nouveau," 
expanded upon English ideas. The Museum 
is fortunate in having six embroideries for 
personal use designed by Hector Guimard 
(1867-1942), the leading French architect in 
this style. The fabrics include a collar and a 
panel for a dress which he designed for 
Adeline Oppenheimer to wear at their 
wedding in 1909 (Figure 19). 

The Encyclopedia of Needlework published 
in France by Therese de Dillmont in 1880 
and Caulfield and Saward's Dictionary of 
Needlework published in England in 1882 
presented dozens of techniques with clear 
diagrams and directions that anyone could 
follow. The number of styles and patterns 
available to the non-professional em- 
broiderer in the late nineteenth and early 
twentieth centuries can be appreciated by a 
random review of the ladies' magazines of 
the period. 

In the twentieth century, the practice of 
embroidery was interrupted by two major 
wars. A casual glance at the periodicals of 
the time reveals that knitting and crochet 
occupied many hands and were used to 
make warm mittens and sweaters for men at 
the front. In countries where national 
costumes were embroidered, such as in 
Central Europe and Scandinavia, em- 
broidery survived severe shocks. 

In the United States, one of the most 
influential teachers to rise out of the chaos 
of the twentieth century was the Hungarian- 
born Mariska Karasz (1898-1960). With 
traditional training and years of experience 
behind her, she taught her students to 
become aware of the movement and 
character of each stitch and to learn to use 
stitches to express the line and mass of a 
pattern. Her embroideries in the collection, 
of which the best known is "Calla Lilly" 
(Figure 20), clearly show that in her 
approach to embroidery, design is far more 
important than expensive materials or 
minute and carefully repeated stitches. 

Gradually, since about 1950, interest in 
embroidery has increased so that today 
there are thousands of non-professional 
embroiderers, shops specializing in patterns 
and needlework supplies and numerous 
active guilds. Contemporary embroidery 
emphasizes designs drawn from the 
present. While both commercial designers 
and non-professional embroiderers often 
draw inspiration from the world around 
them, museum collections continue to make 
the traditions of the past accessible to 

18. Pillow Cover 

Designed and embroidered 
by William Morris & Co. 
London, England, about 
1900 '■ 

Foundation: two layers o1 
plain weave cotton, the 
bottom layer loosely woven. 
Stitches using mercerized 
cotton: running/ darning, 
stem, couching and laid 
work over surlace satin. 
Height: 21 inches. Width: 
21 'h inches. 
Gilt of Annie May 
Hegeman, 1944-71-6 

Milton Sonday and Gillian Moss 

;# 'jf^T-^fH^ 




Mi , 








19. Panel tor a 
Dress (unfinished) 

Designed by Hector 
Guimard (1876-1942) tor 
tiis wite Adetine 
Pans. France, 1909 
Foundation: s/7/<, sheer ptain 
weave. Stilclies using silk: 
cliain Witt) a hiool<, stem, 
satin, padded satin and t^not 
(chain stitch used as 
padding lor satin stitch). 
Height: 27 inches. Width: 
1 1 '/? inches 

Gitt of film. Hector Guimard. 


20. Calla Lily 

Designed and embroidered 

by Marislo Karasz (1898- y^'i 

1 960) KT/ 

United States, 1951 ^)' 

Foundation: s/ft, plain jvi 

weave textured by crint^ied /.i 

yarn. Stitcties using cotton. rV 

wool and synthetics: f f 

coucliing, ladder cliain, ff\ 

leattier. raised stem. U 

knotted detached looping, f i 

stem and Cretan. i\ 

Height: 22 inches. Width. I ) 

16'.h inches y\ 

Gift of Elizabeth Gordon, l/^\ 

"«■■*■ 'I^PW "'■! ,'"v-:'*J»^ 

u , 

f i 


V (, 



^ 1\ 






i [i 


L ■ 

Bolton, Ethel Stanwood 
and, Coe, Eva Johnston 

Brett, Katharine B, 

Daniels, Margaret 

Digby, George 
deFarcy, Louis 

Freeman, Margaret 
Hackenbrough, Yvonne 

Huish, Marcus 

Kendrick, A.F , 
King, Donald 
Levey, Santina 
Morris, Barbara 
Schuette, Mane 

Schuette, Mane and 
Sigrid, text translated by 
Donald King 
Seligman, G Saville 

Wardle. Patricia 

Caulfield, S F A. and 
Saward, B C 

de Dillmont, Therese 
Diderot, Denis 

Emery, Irene 

Enthoven, Jacqueline 
Karasz, Mariska 
Thomas, Mary 

Furst, Paulus 

Jobin. Bernhard 

Netto, Johann Friedrich 

Ostaus, Giovanni 

Paganino, Allessandro 

Pagano, Mathio 

Parasole, Isabetta 


Quentel, Peter 

da Sera, Domenico 

Vavassore, Giovanni 
Vecellio, Cesare 
Vinciolo, Frederico 

Selected Bibliography 
American Samplers 

English Embroidery 16th to 18th Century 

"Early Pattern Books, Lace, Embroidery and Woven 

Textiles" in Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum 

of Art, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3, March. 

Elizabethan Embroidery 

La broderie du Xle siecle jusqu'a nos jours d'apres des 
specimens authentiques et les anciens inventaires 
The St. Martin Embroideries 

English and other Needlework and Textiles in the 
Irwin Untermyer Collection 
Samplers and Tapestry Embroideries 

English Needlwork 


Discovering Embroidery of the 19th Century 

Victorian Embroidery 

Gestickte bildteppiche und decken des mittelalters.... 

The Art of Embroidery 

Domestic Needlework, its Origins and Customs 
throughout the centuries 
Guide to English Embroidery 


The Dictionary of Needlework 

Encyclopedia of Needlework 

Encyclopedie ou Dictionnaire raisonne des sciences 

et des metiers 

The Primary Structures of Fabric 

see pp232-48: "Accessory Stitches" 

The Stitches of Creative Embroidery 

Adventures in Stitches 

Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches 

Pattern Books 


Neu Kunstlichs Modelbuch 

Zeichen-Mahler und Stickerbuch 

La Vera Perfettione 

II Burato 

La Gloire et L'Honore de Ponti Tagliati e PontI in aere 

Pretiosa gemma delle virtuose donne... 

Musterbuch fiir ornamente und stickmuster 
La Livre de lingerie... 

Boston, Massachusetts Society of 1921 

the Colonial Dames of America, reprint, 1973 
New York, Dover 1973 

Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum 1972 

New York, The Metropolitan 

Museum of Art, March 1938 

New York, Thomas Yoseloff 1964 

Angers. Belhomme. 2 vols. 1890 

New York, The Metropolitan Mus of Art 1968 

Cambridge, Harvard University 1960 

London, Longmans Green & Co., 1913 

reprint. New York. Dover 1970 

London. Adam and Charles Black 1967 

London. Victoria and Albert Museum I960 

Tring, Herts, Shire Publications 1971 

New York, Universe Books 1962 

Leipzig, K,W, HIersemann, 2 vols. 1927-30 

London, Thames and Hudson 1964 

New York, Scribners 1926 

London, Victoria and Albert Museum 1970 

London. L Upton Gill 1882 

reprint. New York, Arno 1972 

Mulhouse, France [1880] 

Paris, Briasson 1751-65 

Washington, DC, The Textile 1966 

Esemplario di Lavori 

Corona delle nobili et virtuose donne.... 

Les Singuliers et Nouveaux Pourtraicts 

30 20 1 

New York. Reinhold 


New York. Funk and Wagnall's 

1949 & 1959 

London, Hodder and Stoughton 














Venice, Lucchino Gargano 




Paris, Hierosme de Marnef & 


la veuve de Guillaume Cavellat 






Catalogue design, Roger Whitehouse 

Cooper- Hewitt Museum 

2 East 91st St. 

New York, N.Y. 10028 

CO \ ^ ^ CO ± w £ w X 5 


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